Play tells of fight against Removal and its effects
TULSA, Oklahoma — Oklahoma playwright and lawyer, Mary Kathryn Nagle, brings both personal and political aspects to her upcoming play, ‘Sovereignty.’
This word is the central focus of the production directed by Carolyn Dunn (Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw Freedmen, Tunica Choctaw Biloxi, Cree, Micmaq and Metis).
“It refers to the idea that history repeats itself,” she said.
In a press release from the Heller Theater Company, ‘Sovereignty,’splits its setting into two parallel, deeply connected timelines: the early 1830s in Cherokee Nation, and in what is now called Oklahoma in the year 2020.
In the first part, tensions rise as President Andrew Jackson’s White House threatens to remove the Cherokee from their land.
In the second, Sarah Polson must confront her ubiquitous past through her work as a young Cherokee lawyer fighting for the restoration and preservation of her Nation’s inherent jurisdiction.
The company announced the play with auditions in August with performances in October and November.
Dunn spoke about the play showing the struggles that Native Americans went through to determine sovereignty and its status.
“It is still the same struggle, 200 and something years later,” she said.
Tommy Cummings (Muscogee (Creek)/Choctaw) plays John Ross and his descendant Jim Ross representing both time periods.
He said he began acting in 2000 while he was a student at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
Cummings said he was drawn to this play because it is the same as what his ancestors endured, even as citizens of another tribe.
“It helps me to understand what my ancestors went through,” Cummings said. “Also, what our people are going through today.”
Cummings said learning about the past through this play makes him more curious about the details of other tribes’ experiences.
“Choctaws how did they deal with that,” he said. “How did the Creeks deal with that, is what I want to learn more about.”
Motivational speaker and comedian Chance Rush (Hidatsa, Dakota, Otoe and Arapaho)is playing his first role in ‘Sovereignty’ and said he always wanted to be an actor.
“I’m excited about it because it is always something that I wanted to do,” he said. “It is a challenge for me.”
Rush said through all the titles that he has, he feels it is his way to advocate to others.
“Whether it is speaking, being a comedian or motivational speaker, I want to educate and if acting helps with that, I welcome it,” he said.
He is playing John Ridge in the play. Rush said his character wants what is best for CN.
“(In the play) We are coming to a point in our nation where we have to adapt with the white man,” he said. “We also have to adapt with the government and work with them.”
Rush expressed his feelings about the part.
“I am very honored to have this role and I am learning from it everyday,” he said.
Dunn said she has enjoyed every minute working with the cast.
“They are so much fun,” she said. “You have everyone here who is of a different tribe but know the history and know what their ancestors went through. It has been great.”
Sovereignty debuts at the Liddy Doenges Theater at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Oct. 26-27 and will be featured Nov. 2-3 all at 7:30 p.m. Performances are also set Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 at 2 p.m.